Dr Mary Ooko, the manager of the Unit for Distance Education, was invited to give a presentation at the UNESCO Chair on Open Distance Learning (ODL) on 11 August 2021. Her presentation was titled Challenges and Opportunities posed by COVID 19 Lockdown: Taking a deeper look into the teaching learning support systems in a distance education programme at the Unit for Distance Education, University of Pretoria.
The presentation gave attendees a thought-provoking perspective on how the UDE is being proactive and innovative in its approach to creating opportunities from the challenges posed to the distance learning sphere by COVID-19, and its efforts to adapt, effectively utilising creative teaching and learning support systems to ensure that no student is left behind
Dr Ooko explained that the UDE was established in 2002 as a print-based distance education unit, and teaching and learning resources were printed and dispatched by post. Contact sessions were conducted in physical venues spread across the country and communication was conducted via the Post Office. A remarkable transformation therefore had to take place to be able to migrate to a hybrid mode of delivery and move to the online space during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
She discussed how the UDE achieved the successful digital migration of all its pedagogical processes and administrative process. The wise decision taken by the University of Pretoria early in 2015 to adopt a hybrid mode of delivery had prompted the Unit to fast track its digital migration processes and when the first 2020 COVID-19 lockdown was announced, the UDE was already well on its way to providing its services online.